I was honestly unsure what to expect from Germany. Having grown up in the Sixties, my image of Germans came from war films, prisoner of war stories and comedy stereotypes. As an adult, intellectually I learnt the difference between contemporary Germany and the Nazi party but until I saw it for myself, I’d not taken on board the incredible journey the German people have made.
This trip – and Nuremberg in particular – have been a real education.
The cottage on the left is where we are staying as guests of the lovely Fabien: a young man who works as a property developer. The building and the yellow house you can see to the right are more than five hundred years old. Inside, he’s done a smashing job on restoring a mad jumble of beams and levels.
All the other houses in the street are post-war.
On the night of 2nd of January 1945, over ninety per cent of Nuremberg was destroyed in bombing. All of the churches, the town-hall, more than two thousand preserved medieval houses as well as the residential area surrounding the centre were hit.
The restaurant where we ate last night had photos of how it looked before and then immediately after the bombing. Practically nowhere was intact.
This afternoon we went on a guided tour around the city and were able to see what a superb job the people of Nuremberg have done in its restoration. They really have recreated a beautiful place from the rubble and are justly proud of their home.
Yet again we were extremely lucky with our guide. Anya was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. She took us right through the history of the city from when it was part of Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire to becoming a Protestant Centre after Martin Luther. Luther himself visited the city twice and stayed in this car-park; only in those days it was a monastery.
We learnt about the little bays which became a fashionable adornment to houses. Apparently, the city leaders wanted these forbidden on the grounds that a plain facade was more in keeping with the Protestant ideal. The householders responded by saying that these spaces were simply to give them more room to focus on prayer. Oh, that’s OK then, said the council. Go ahead.
These became known as Ladies Windows as ladies liked to sit there and watch what was going on outside. In between praying, of course.
Albrecht Dürer spent much of his life in Nuremburg, so there’s a statue of him, and a museum about him, and a house (above) which belonged to him and an airport named after him, and this statue which is quite recent but was inspired by one of his wood-prints.
Anya talked about the impact that the Nazi period had on the town. There is an archive and visitors’ centre documenting the history of that time; as in Heidleberg, we were aware that there is a determination to acknowledge what happened and learn from it.
There were many places left in ruins after 1945, of course. But I’d never really appreciated how the German people after the War and then – for some – the Soviet occupation, had not just to reconstruct their buildings but also to completely rebuild their society from the ground up. What a task!
We’ve loved our time here: the places we have visited all seem clean and cared-for; all the Germans we have met have been helpful and friendly. Their transport system works like a dream: the mix of modern trams and bikes must be a major reason why the cities are so clean and pleasant. It’s been a brilliant country to visit and I’ve learnt so much. Tomorrow, we head for France but we’re both keen to come back to Germany next time we go travelling.
Now, we’re going to back into the city for an evening stroll before packing up for the morning.